Bite-sized pieces of extra content to buy are an evolving part of the video game industry. When people first began worrying what they could do to our hobby, they were little microtransaction buffs that would provide extra currency or experience. More recently, these small items asking for our money are loot boxes. That is, they are tiny boxes filled with random items we may or may not want. They are easy to implement and sell to companies. But what should companies do once their games are no longer hot?
It seems like two companies are leading the way, when it comes to what to do with loot boxes when things stop being so hot. Monolith and Turn 10 are abolishing the items in two major games. Wanted to buy extra Orcs in Shadow of War? That is not an option anymore! Thinking you needed a Prize Crate in Forza Motorsport 7? Think again! In each situation, a AAA title has decided that enough is enough. They are putting what is best for the player and game first, now that the titles are ending their golden years.
With Shadow of War, a lot of thought and effort has been put into removing the loot boxes as an option. When the patch went through on July 17, 2018, everything changed. If people had Gold left over, it turned into items. Those Orcs that were available to buy before? Well, now you can earn them in other ways. The Nemesis System received changes, to allow people to connect to Orcs in new ways. The Shadow Wars section, which was a post-game slog that practically begged you to spend real money to defend fortresses and immediately unlock new Orcs, was retooled. It received new narration and gameplay elements that made it actually feel fun, rather than an excuse to coerce people still playing into spending more money on the game.
Forza Motorsport 7’s efforts are just as meaningful. More effort is needed for Turn 10 to gracefully execute the Prize Crate withdrawal, which means the company decided to go big when leading up to the shift. All cars were removed from these loot boxes, instead taking all those previously gated-off vehicles and having them accessible without paying extra money. The only things you are “buying” now are Driver Gear suits, badges, and mods. None of this has an effect on gameplay. It is all cosmetic and superfluous. The company may have needed some time to completely remove these extra cash-grabs, but it did a lot of good for the fans of the game in the process. It was a pleasant thing to see.
Because really, the window in which people are willing to pay money for things is small. They would be more likely to move on and give their cash to the game that came out six weeks ago, rather than the one that dropped six months ago. There is a struggle for relevancy here. More than that, there is the idea of maintenance. If companies keep loot boxes in, people might have an expectation of continued patches and content streams. By giving games a year to ask for money, then removing these extra purchase options, they are extending the lifespan and making it easier for people to consider giving titles a second chance.
Shadow of War and Forza Motorsport 7 are paving the way into the future. Each of these games is seeing what happens after a title is established. They are considering the audience that is still sticking with the game. Most importantly, they realize that they can not make any more money off of these titles. It is not feasible. Instead, they need to scale back and think differently. There is no point in keeping loot crates in after the period where these games are “hot,” so they are doing the right thing and making them more attractive to audiences by allowing everyone access to everything without paying extra instead.